Letter: ‘Yes’ to Senior Housing

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It’s hard to imagine a project that would create greater value at less cost to New Canaan taxpayers than Waveny LifeCare Network’s senior housing proposal for Oenoke Ridge. 

Why wouldn’t we want to attract and retain homeowners who want a local independent living option for their aging parents? Why wouldn’t we want residents to stay in their homes in their 60’s and 70’s, knowing that there’s a highly desirable in-town solution for housing and care in our 80’s and 90’s? 

The Oenoke Ridge project will require approval of the Planning and Zoning Commission. It will have detractors, but it should win approval if there’s overwhelming support from the community. Let’s give it. 

New Canaan already is one of the world’s best places to live. Let’s make it one of the best places to stay.

Tom Butterworth serves on the New Canaan Town Council. Other members may or may not share these views.

11 thoughts on “Letter: ‘Yes’ to Senior Housing

  1. Many of us have grandchildren in town and would love to be able to stay in town in senior housing to enjoy them growing up! Time to make this possible!

  2. It’s a wonderful concept BUT let’s see what it will look like from the Historical Society grounds, from the field at St.Mark’s and especially from Oenoke Ridge Rd, state highway and entrance from the north to the Town. It is VERY LARGE, VERY HIGH, and VERY CLOSE to the road, like a big 4-story, looming stone wall dividing the two adjacent properties in a residential zone.
    Probably needs to be scaled down.

  3. Funny – Merritt Village was supposed to be Senior Housing – and still are I assume. They broke zoning codes to bring Senior Friendly housing to New Canaan for nothing it seems. See quotes in 2 NewCanaanite articles:
    ‘Merritt Village’ Unveiled: New Details, Concerns from Neighbors”
    …asked how many of the proposed 123 units are “senior-friendly” (all of them)…
    “P&Z Approves 110 Units for Proposed ‘Merritt Village’ Development”
    “He added that M2 managing partner Arnold Karp, a New Canaan resident … pointed to a dearth of single-story downtown housing for seniors, pointing to … in town qualifies as “affordable” under the Connecticut Department of…”
    Aren’t there also numerous senior housing options near New Canaan – I am thinking of the new Brightview on 123 just across the New Canaan line. The 2010-11 Town Committee (Senior Health Care and Housing Policy Development Team) looked at Merritt Village to buy for TRUE affordable Senior Housing (after a plan to build Senior Housing at Waveny was rejected) and then passed on it – even though it was perfect – letting a developer buy it when the price came down. If the Town controlled the senior housing (not for profit) wouldn’t rent naturally be lower than from a private enterprise? The campus and number of units would have been larger. The cost to renovate existing buildings on this property (vs demolish and build) would have been low and would have prevented our zoning laws/density from being broken and kept the character of downtown and the impending cluster traffic problem that I expect will happen when Merritt Village comes on line. Kevin Moynihan was on this study committee. See New Canaan website under “Agenda’s and Minutes”. The formal reports that were generated were clear that Merritt Village was the Town’s BEST option for Affordable Senior housing for residents.

    This project is also not without damage to another institution in New Canaan trying to preserve New Canaan history – The land that this will be built on – is part of the New Canaan Historic Society CAMPUS. I believe it was purchased donated to the Historic Society by a board member. So this institution is losing property it may need should another historic house be in jeopardy and have to be moved to the campus. Many of the historic houses on the NCHS campus now – have been moved from elsewhere in New Canaan i.e. Red School House, Roger’s Studio, Rock School. NCHS will get money from the sale in the short-term – but loses flexibility in the campus in future – forever – so it’s a long-term loss. If only the Town had purchased Merritt Apartments – we could have preserved a little more history and kept Town character in more ways than one and kept more current residents/friends in Town.

    • Andrea, couple quick things on your comment here and I imagine others may want to jump in. First, nobody “broke zoning codes” in the Merritt Village approval process. The attorney representing the applicant proposed an overlay zone—the Pedestrian Oriented Multifamily Zone, I think it was called—and the Planning & Zoning Commission approved its addition to the regulations. Secondly, I don’t imagine the financially strapped New Canaan Historical Society is upset about selling the 1929 non-antique Colonial on Oenoke Ridge. If there’s a purchase agreement in place between the Historical Society and Waveny LifeCare Network, then both sides agreed to it.

    • Andrea–yes Merritt is senior friendly and fully ADA compatible—it will give those residents who want one story living finally an option in New Canaan. There are very few apartments or existing condo’s in Town that are on one floor. No zoning laws were broken (see M. Dinan’s comments). You and others who are always anti-everything always talk about character of New Canaan—what year(s) should we bring New Canaan back to 1952, 1968, 1975, 1980—communities change or die. Studies clearly show if you don’t create the housing residents want they move to other town. The Town should not be involved in housing—it is well proven that municipalities are not great landlords.
      A little homework before writing your comments—might go along way

  4. It makes sense that this is a private develooer; the Town of New Canaan should not be in the business of providing senior housing. What I am unclear on Tom, is that if P&Z will need to change zoning to accommodate this, what assures that our Neew Canaan residents have access? Is there a percentage of apartments allocated to New Canaanites? And, when the zoning is changed how will that effect the Roger Sherman property?

    • The Town of NC can be in the senior housing business
      many Towns and cities are — they do it with a loan from HUD
      which allows the Town not to rent to anyone under 55 and can
      keep children out — or they can partner with a private developer
      to build and manage it –
      Being able to buy is one thing but seniors should be able to rent
      in Town — The town should build 100 – 200 units for seniors
      on Town land — they don’t need to buy $500,000+ units
      to stay in town

    • Good questions, Neele. P&Z would have to decide how to revise current zoning rules, which I think they could do without setting a legal precedent for the Roger Sherman property. As for setting aside units for New Canaanites, if that’s not in Waveny LifeCare Network’s initial proposal, you could request P&Z to make it a condition of their approval. It’s important that such any such rules wouldn’t jeopardize the financial soundness of the project, of course.

  5. Senior friendly housing is an absolute necessity for New Canaan. I applaud the efforts to bring this together. I do think it is of critical importance for this building to blend in with New Canaans New Canaan charm. It was said that the architect was from Colorado. This leads me to believe the architect might be specialized in senior housing. A second (local ) architect should be utilized for the exterior elevations and grounds.

  6. There are apparently a lot of senior friendly housing projects planned for New Canaan – 11 properties to be sold at Cross and Vitti has this: Big changes coming to New Canaan’s Cross Street?
    https://www.ncadvertiser.com/news/article/Big-changes-coming-to-New-Canaan-s-Cross-St-14282311.php And the 2014 POCD created by P&Z – highlighted the ACME Market area, Grove Street, Pine Street & either side of the Train Station (and surrounding properties) for large development which would probably include Senior housing and additional zoning “overlays”.

    However –
    1. What KIND of Senior housing? Is it what residents really need i.e. affordable? How many people leave not because of lack of senior friendly space – but cost?

    2. Why can’t the Town be in the business of Senior Housing? The Town already houses and feeds most of New Canaan’s School children every day – and buses them around. They can’t handle a few rowdy seniors in one complex? 🙂 I believe Darien runs their own affordable senior housing complex.

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